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Putting best bare feet forward

Sarah Linton in action at Christmas. PHOTO/ROSS LINTON

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Water skiing at 72km/h might be a scary thought for some, and even more so without the most important piece of equipment – the skis.

Sarah Linton will be representing Wairarapa at the World Barefoot Water Ski Championships in Canada in August, and said she learned to ski barefoot when she was six years old.

“I started competing when I was 14, and I’m 25 now.

“Dad used to compete as well, and we do it down the Ruamahanga River.”

Tricks, slalom and a jump are the three components of competitive barefoot water skiing, and Linton said tricks was her best event.

She had already qualified for the world championships in tricks and slalom before last month’s nationals at Lake Karapiro but knew that would be her last chance to qualify in the jump event.

She needed to pass the open grade qualification mark of 9.9m, but 9.3m was the best she could muster over her first attempts.

The night jump was the final opportunity to beat the mark, and she did it in style with a jump of 10.1m.

“I managed to jump 10.1m at night, in the dark . . . I don’t know how I managed that.

“That was pretty cool – it was nerve-wracking knowing it was my last chance to get it as well.”

That jump also resulted in her becoming the first female to win the ‘most photogenic jump’ award since it was introduced in 1998.

Linton was introduced to water skiing by her father, Ross, who is the New Zealand team manager for the world championships and has been with the team for the past few years.

He first introduced her to regular water skiing, but not long after, she was learning the barefoot version.

“You have to go a lot faster in barefoot,” Linton said.

“When I slalom, I go 72km/h – the smaller surface area [of the feet] means you need more speed.”

She has plenty of experience competing on the world stage, having attended six world championships from 2009 to 2016.

She has also been to the Asia Oceania Championships three times.

“We head over to Florida in July for team training, then we head to Canada for the worlds,” Linton said.

“I haven’t been to Canada, so it will be cool to go there.”

Her first goal will be to make the semi-finals of the three events, which she has managed to do the past couple of times.

From there, the plan is to get into the final where “anything is possible”.

Linton said the support of the Wairarapa Sports Education Trust had been vital to assisting her journey towards the world championships, and she was keen to reward their faith with a successful outing in Canada.

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